Ongoing Lead Project

Smart cities are often talked about – but smart villages? Rural areas, particularly in structurally weak regions, are often affected by out-migration and a growing backlog in digital infrastructure and innovation dynamics. Both trends reinforce each other. However, there are examples of villages in which innovative initiatives do not just strive to compensate for deficits, but develop new, situation- and problem-specific local solutions. In doing so, they combine new services with creative uses of digital technologies and sometimes improved digital infrastructures. In this lead project, such initiatives, driven by ‘smart villagers’, are analysed from the perspective of ‘societal innovations’, yet with an emphasis on the aspects of mediatization and digitalization. more

Ongoing Third-party Funded Projects

Everyday life in rural areas is based in a special way on volunteer work, with digital technologies increasingly being used. However, campaigning and funding practice for the digitalization of volunteering in rural areas precedes an inventory of the same: systematic findings on the use of digital tools and practices in volunteering in Germany are so far only rudimentary. Within the project, a differentiated picture of the use and handling of digital technologies in voluntary work in German rural areas, will be elaborated according to spatial types, organizational profiles and age structure of involved volunteers. A well-founded assessment of the opportunities and risks of technology use of technology in rural voluntary work is to be made. more

At the intersection of technical and social innovation, the project "Stadtquartier 4.1" seeks to find out, if and how the introduction of novel logistics and mobility services (such as automated parcel pick-up stations and cargo-bike sharing) in a neighbourhood impacts on local dwellers' behaviours and attitudes related to logistics. Secondly, it seeks to understand the communicative and participatory processes which lead to the introduction of said services into a neighbourhood. Thirdly, it investigates, if and how the social acceptance for novel logistics and mobility services systematically varies between urban and sub-urban environments. The IRS sub-project within the consortium provides knowledge, if and under which conditions technical innovations in the field of urban logistics establish in society and contribute to sustainable urban development. more

The Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (GCSMUS), is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via the DAAD program “Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation – exceed" and based at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). GCSMUS seeks to introduce the use of social science research methodologies for the advancement of urban sustainable development, by connecting social sciences methodology, via knowledge transfer, exchange and implementation, with urban policy-making, planning and design. more

“Re-Figuration of Spaces” is the first sociology-led Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) to be funded by the German Research Foundation. It aims to investigate the comprehensive spatial reorganisation of global scale that has been caused by an increase in the global circulation of people and goods, the development and dissemination of digital communications technologies, and the thus entailed growth of worldwide interconnections. Prof. Dr. Gabriela Christmann of the IRS is involved in the CRC as a member of the management board and as spokesperson for Project Area B, “Spaces of Communication”, and leads the sub-project “Digital Urban Planning: Planning Practices and Physical Arrangements”. more

Ongoing Qualification Projects

Rural areas are regularly associated with negative images of problems such as demographic change, loss of infrastructure, or lack of broadband connections. This culminates in attributions such as “dying villages”, “bleeding out”, or “empty landscapes”, especially with regard to structurally weak regions in the eastern German states. For some years, however, a new tone seems to have entered the debate, which rapidly intensified in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic: now urban flight appears as a new trend. The habilitation project is dedicated to the changes in the social constructions of the rural as well as their significance for spatial planning and development by analysing the discursive construction of rural areas and their changes since the 1960s in Germany. more

Digitalisation as a societal megatrend also changes life in rural areas. Village inhabitants push initiatives to address common problems of rural living with digital technology. The aim of this research project is to better understand rural digitalisation processes and their effects on village communities as well as the (further) development of a theoretical framework to this research object. more

Digital visualizations play an important role in urban planning and architecture practice today. Photorealistic renderings are produced in ever increasing quantities during all kinds and stages of planning processes. Questioning the production and use of photorealistic images can enhance understanding of the different rationalities that are being negotiated in urban development processes. more

Simulation, GIS and CAD software, 3D visualizations, 3D printers and drone technology have become part of the digital infrastructure for planners. They use digital tools and software to analyze, understand and shape the future of cities. The dissertation project investigates how digital arrangements coconstruct the design and planning practicse of urban planners. Martin Schinagl does this by applying methods of qualitative social research and ethnographic workplace research in private and public planning offices. By cross-culturally comparing a number of planning offices in different cities of the world (Lagos, New York, Frankfurt), the project aims to find out how communicative actions and spatial imaginations differ and resemble each other in mediatized working environments. more

In current times, many rural regions in Europe are facing major social and economic problems. With a declining population in rural areas, both the public and private sectors struggle to keep services at the same levels as before. However, due to a decrease in revenue they are often only poorly maintained and as a result can become under-utilised and end up with being withdrawn. Similarly, also local living conditions and quality of life decreases as unemployment rises and skilled labour becomes limited.<br/><br/>These developments are mirrored in the media where structurally weak rural areas face recurring negative discourses. This can further reduce economic opportunities by framing the regions as a less rewarding context for both economic development and for everyday living,... more

Completed Third-party Funded Projects